Parliaments fight for control of Kyrgyzstan
By Jessicah Curtis in Bishkek
28 March 2005
The fragile stability of Kyrgyzstan is under threat, with two parliaments vying for authority and the country's new leaders disagreeing on the formation of a government.
Just days after the removal of the Central Asian republic's president in a popular uprising, the parliament elected in the rigged election that led to his downfall, and the former Kyrgyz parliament attended work, raising fears that the country's administration was again in crisis.
Both groups claim to be the legitimate legislative body.
Contradictory rulings by the country's Supreme Court and Central Election Commission have been blamed for the confusion. The Kyrgyz Central Election Commission said the parliament elected this month should start work, while the Kyrgyz Supreme Court ruled that the previous parliament should remain in power until 14 April.
The separate findings have also caused divisions between Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the newly-elected President and Prime Minister, and Felix Kulov, the new head of the security ministry.
Mr Bakiyev was among many, including the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court, to support the reinstatement of the old parliament.
But Mr Kulov has publicly expressed his support for the newly-elected parliament, saying it should start immediately.
Marina Dimitrieva, a spokeswoman for the Bishkek office of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, said it was unclear which parliament was calling the shots. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, of which Kyrgyzstan is a member, said it would send constitutional and legal experts to Bishkek.
The two parliaments worked out of separate rooms in the legislative building yesterday. There was reportedly no collaboration between the two.
"We don't know how they are going to work together, but it is clear that there needs to be some compromise," Ms Dimitrieva said.
Many Bishkek citizens said they were worried about the country's stability as security forces tried to regain control of the city. While heavy snow and rain seemed to have deterred most trouble-makers, the atmosphere in the capital remained tense. Gunshots could be heard intermittently across Bishkek after dark as police and military patrols fired into the air in an attempt to deter loiterers from another night of looting and damaging property.
Despite a relative calm during the day, most shops closed early, and by nightfall business owners could be seen peeking through windows hoping to avoid trouble.
Uri Boljekova, who stood guard outside the only intact department store, TsUM, with about 50 friends yesterday, said he did not trust the new leaders because they did not seem to know what they were doing.
"The problem is that no one planned for this revolution to happen. It even took [Bakiyev and Kulov] by surprise, so now they are unprepared," he said.
"Things are not stable and there is no trust. The leaders now are from different parties. How are they going to agree on anything?"
Thousands of volunteer vigilantes were on the streets of Bishkek yesterday as storeowners safeguarded their property after looters ravaged the city on Thursday and Friday night, following the sudden departure of president Askar Akayev who fled to Russia.
Another volunteer security guard carrying a large wooden club and sporting several gold teeth said: "I think Akayev was the most corrupt person in the world, but the people didn't have to guard their own property before." "This is a terrible time. All we have is uncertainty and panic."
Mar 28 2005 11:03AM
Kyrgyzstan's new parliament declared legitimate
BISHKEK. March 28 (Interfax) - Kyrgyzstan's new parliament, which was elected in February and March, is legitimate, acting Central Elections Commission Chairman Tuigunally Abdraimov told a news conference on Monday.
The powers of the previous parliament will be terminated starting Monday, Abdraimov said.
"The newly elected parliament is legitimate. We cannot allow the government to remain paralyzed over 14 disputable electoral districts. Disputes will be settled within two weeks," he said.
Kyrgyz woman holding a baby asks for the lifting of a highway blockade / Photo: AP
OSCE Aims to Avert Crisis in Kyrgyzstan
Created: 28.03.2005 11:41 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 11:41 MSK, 42 minutes ago
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) says it is making urgent attempts to end a legal dispute in Kyrgyzstan, BBC News reports.
The body's top official has already arrived in the country, and two of the organization's constitutional and legal experts are due to arrive in the next few days.
This announcement came after Kyrgyzstan's electoral body on Sunday backed the new parliament, elected in the disputed polls that prompted the protests which brought down Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev. There are now two rival parliaments in the country that both claim legitimacy.
However, the new head of security, Felix Kulov, released from jail last week, told deputies gathered in the capital, Bishkek, that the term of the old parliament had expired and that legally, the new parliament was legitimate.
The OSCE's secretary-general, Jan Kubis, held talks with Kyrgyz's acting President Kurmanbek Bakiev and other interim Kyrgyz officials in the capital Bishkek on Sunday and is going to hold further consultations over the next few days.
The OSCE's representative in Central Asia Alojz Peterle said that during the meeting with Bakiev it was agreed that the OSCE's "expertise on the constitutional and legal issues is desired".
Bakiev has announced that presidential elections will take place on June 26. However, the OSCE's envoy to Kyrgyzstan Markus Mueller described the date as unrealistic.
It still remains unclear where the former president Askar Akayev is. Russia says it has offered to host him, at his own request, and, according to Reuters, the Kremlin has indicated he is already there.
Moreover, Felix Kulov has persuaded police to return to work and ordered them to open fire on looters if disorder in the country reappears.
Monday March 28, 06:54 PM
Bakiyev confirmed as Kyrgyzstan's interim leader
BISHKEK (Reuters) - Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who headed protests that triggered a coup in Kyrgyzstan last week, has been appointed the Central Asian state's leader by its new parliament as officials battle to end political chaos.
Bakiyev, who had previously disputed the election of the new parliament, was named prime minister, giving Kyrgyzstan a leadership with some claim to legitimacy after days of confusion following the overthrow of veteran President Askar Akayev.
The parliament's decision automatically confirmed Bakiyev's position as acting president, a role he took on last Friday even though Akayev -- in power for 14 years in the former Soviet republic -- has refused to quit.
Akayev issued a statement on Monday from exile in Russia, accusing Kyrgyzstan's new leaders of disgracing the country and ruining the economy.
The statement, sent by e-mail to the Kyrgyz news agency Kabar and posted on its Web site (www.kabar.kg), did not indicate whether Akayev would resign or try to return home as he has hinted.
The new leaders had warned of the risk of civil war after the collapse of the old government last Thursday in an orgy of violence and looting. Calm has since returned.
Bakiyev was quick to hold out an olive branch to the new parliament, which was formally allowed to take over on Monday from the previous legislature.
"I can be reproached for saying earlier that the (February, March) polls were not legitimate. I said so. But in this parliament we have questions to only 15 to 20 constituencies, no one is saying that all deputies have to go," he said.
Kyrgyzstan has set June 26 for a new presidential election, although the date still has to be confirmed. Bakiyev is almost certain to stand.
The new leaders, mostly top officials at some stage during Akayev's rule, dismissed widespread suggestions they had little fondness for one another and were already squabbling.
"We have no difference of opinion. It's just a misunderstanding," said one leader, Felix Kulov, when asked about reports of conflict with Bakiyev.
Kulov, freed from jail by protesters during Thursday's mass protests that brought down Akayev, is now one of Kyrgyzstan's most powerful men with control over the security forces.
The new leaders won help from Russian President Vladimir Putin when he promised to get emergency aid to Moscow's former Soviet ally which says it desperately needs food and fuel.
The constitutional crisis stoked tension in the mainly Muslim state of 5 million.
"The rule of the Kalashnikov (rifle)" would take over in the country if the crisis was unresolved, the speaker of the new parliament, Omurbek Tekebayev, told reporters.
The new parliament assumed authority despite being tarnished by the disputed poll, in what observers said was a sign of politicians adapting to reality.
"The new parliament consists of a lot of rich and influential people who invested a lot in the election and want to see a return on capital," said one Western diplomat, declining to be named. "There's a clash between ideals and reality."
Many Kyrgyz appeared far from convinced their new leaders would offer a better life in a country where most survive on a dollar a day.
"After all the looting and destruction that we've had I do not recognise my own city. If this new leadership had not come along none of this would have happened. We need to change the leadership again," said student Zarina Anarbekova.
Two other former Soviet states, Ukraine and Georgia, have also had a change of leadership after protests following disputed elections.
Kyrgyzstan, a mountainous country bordering China, lies in a region rich in oil and gas deposits that is viewed with keen interest by Moscow and Washington. The new leadership promised no radical changes in its foreign policy.
"The coordinates of external policy will be the same. Russia is our close ally and the central Asians are brotherly neighbours... (We will) develop our relations with European countries and the West and first of all with the United States," acting Foreign Minister Roza Otunbayeva told reporters.
She said the new government would stick to agreements with Moscow and Washington, allowing them to keep their military bases in the country.
Troops Focus on Afghanistan in Kyrgyzstan
Tuesday March 29, 2005 8:01 PM
By MARA D. BELLABY
Associated Press Writer
GANCI AIR BASE, Kyrgyzstan (AP) - When revolution hit the capital of Kyrgyzstan, U.S. soldiers at this nearby air base hunkered down and got on with their jobs - focusing on another troubled Central Asian country, Afghanistan
For the 800 U.S. troops providing support to planes and troops going in and out of Afghanistan, it was impossible to completely ignore the chaos that broke out in Kyrgyzstan after last week's forced ouster of its longtime leader.
Airman Scott McClain, with the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing, said he had barely heard of this ex-Soviet republic before being posted here. Now with the country making news back home in Pittsburgh, his family is worried.
``I had to reassure my kids that we are far away from all that,'' said McClain.
Ganci Air Base is only 19 miles northwest of the capital, Bishkek, where throngs of protesters stormed the presidential headquarters Thursday and forced longtime leader Askar Akayev to flee. But base commanders said they were determined to keep U.S. soldiers' attention on Afghanistan.
``Our mission is very focused,'' said Staff Sgt. Russ Martin of Los Angeles. He admits that when chaos and looting hit Bishkek, he was paying attention - albeit only online. ``I clicked refresh on the Internet a lot,'' he said.
Ganci opened in 2001 on what was a bare field next to Bishkek's only international airport to work as a logistical hub supporting U.S.-led anti-terrorism operations in Afghanistan. It is named for Peter Ganci, the New York City fire chief who died in the World Trade Center attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
Russia opened its Kant air base, 12 miles east of Bishkek, in 2003 in what was seen as a response to the American presence.
Ganci's 37-acre compound is fenced off with a concrete wall topped by coiled razor wire and a warning sign with a drawing of a fierce-looking dog. Checkpoints dot the site, guarded by soldiers carrying M-16 rifles slung over their backs.
Security got even tighter after the protests started in southern Kyrgyzstan, their numbers swelling and eventually spreading north to the capital.
McClain counts himself lucky because he went on the last organized tour of Bishkek sites before the upheaval; outings have since been suspended.
As protesters stormed the presidential headquarters and looted stores, the U.S. base went into lockdown, keeping the 110 Kyrgyz workers in the mess hall overnight.
``We put in a long day,'' said Altynai Mukambetova, 23, who works in the cafeteria. ``It was pretty scary - not in here, but thinking about what was happening out there.''
While the base generally operates as an independent island, its isolation from Kyrgyzstan is not all-encompassing.
There are meetings between the base commander and officials from the nearby airport - the main point of entry and departure for civilian flights into Bishkek - several times a week, and the U.S. military says it makes efforts to reach out to the local community.
This weekend, children from a Kyrgyzstan orphanage are scheduled to visit for an Easter egg hunt. On a recent Kyrgyz holiday, soldiers got a chance to the national cuisine.
Not far from the base, goats and cows graze on the highway's median, and kiosks selling apples and bananas line the streets. Overhead, the cavernous C-17 cargo plane and the KC-135 refueling jet - the U.S. military's workhorses - sweep across the sky.
Despite the base's location on a dusty, wind-swept field facing the snowcapped Ala-Too mountains, the soldiers say there is plenty to remind them of home. Soldiers knock around a volleyball on a sand court and drink their regulation two beers - Russian brands - at Pete's Cafe. And they tap home lots of e-mails.
Most soldiers, who typically serve a four-month tour, count the days until they can leave. Then they'll slip into their civilian clothes, carry their bags into Pete's and plop down their dollars for a long-awaited souvenir: vodka. It's sold only to soldiers headed home.
Leon Longstreth, 23, from Cincinnati, will soon be one of the lucky ones. A member of the Fort Campbell, Ky.-based 551st MP Company, Longstreth came to Kyrgyzstan on Monday night from Afghanistan, and is waiting for a flight to the United States.
He had heard of the uprising in Kyrgyzstan, but flying straight into Ganci base, he wasn't worried.
``I can tell you this,'' he said. ``It's a lot nicer than Afghanistan.''
He's right. Why aren't we told?
Hi guys, I have my wife's mother still living in Bishkek. I am hearing very disturbing stories about ethnic cleansing of Russians by the Kyrgz people. Apparently there are leaflets being distributed throughout Bishkek urging all Kyrgz not to buy homes of Russians now "fleeing" the country as they will be able move into these homes for free...... . Can anyone tell me if they know any of these rumours are true?
Thanks for letting us know about your experiences. Has your girlfriend made it yet? Have you been able to maintain contact with her?
Thanks for the links. Hope things work out for you.
I'd be very interested to hear anything you find out.
Excuse my manners.
We're very glad to have you here. Look around. Make yourself at home.
KYRGYZSTAN: Activists welcome anti-corruption probe
26 Apr 2005 06:36:11 GMT
ANKARA, 26 April (IRIN) - Anti-corruption activists have applauded a move by Kyrgyzstan's interim government to investigate the business interests of former president Askar Akayev and his family, calling upon the Kyrgyz authorities for systematic and comprehensive reforms to tackle corruption in the former Soviet republic.
"We welcome this [move] but it is important that any investigations be not just politically motivated and [that] they are not just window dressing to identify some crimes and not others," Ben Elers, Europe and Central Asia project manager with international anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI), told IRIN from the group's headquarters in Berlin on Monday.
"It is very good that there has been such an initiative from the Kyrgyz government to establish a commission comprising people who know and have a lot of information on family and clan-based corruption, which has developed in the country over the past 15 years," Tolekan Ismailova, head of the local Citizens Against Corruption human rights centre, told IRIN from the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek.
"We welcome this initiative, but would like to add content to it because all these things should be done through an international independent audit and international financial institutions," Ismailova said, adding that those elements would provide transparency and international credit to the commission's work.
Their comments followed the establishment of a state commission by the Kyrgyz interim leadership last week to look into the business interests of the former president and his family. Bishkek published a list of 42 businesses which would be investigated for links to Akayev and his family.
The extensive list includes some of the country's key enterprises, including its main gold mine, sugar, alcohol and cement factories, as well as media groups and several entertainment businesses.
On Friday, Prosecutor-General Azimbek Beknazarov announced a criminal case in relation to the sale of the Kumtor gold mine, which accounts for up to 10 percent of Kyrgyz annual gross domestic product (GDP).
"A criminal case has been opened because around US $90 million that Kyrgyzstan received in exchange for Kumtor stock has disappeared," Beknazarov told AFP.
Alleged corruption by the former ruling family was one of the key grievances of recent demonstrations that led to Akayev's sudden ouster from power on 24 March when opposition-led protesters overran his office.
The decision to resolve the issue of ownership of various companies - allegedly belonging to or controlled by former president Akayev and his family members - was not taken to persecute the ex-president, but to see the real picture, Kurmanbek Bakiev, prime minister and acting president, told Kyrgyz national TV on Sunday.
"As there are varying reports in the media [on the issue], it is necessary to clear that up and say openly what has been acquired according to the law and what has been acquired illegally in order to provide a clear picture to public," Bakiev said.
"If this or that business was acquired illegally or far below its price then such privatisation instances need to be put in compliance with the law, while those acquired legally should be announced as being so."
Meanwhile, TI's Elers urged Bishkek to engage in a more comprehensive approach to the issue of corruption. Kyrgyzstan ranked 125 out of 146 countries in TI's Corruption Perception Index 2004, an annual survey ranking countries in terms of experts' perception of corruption.
"This is a perception of corruption, it is not the measurement of corruption itself. This shows that Kyrgyzstan is perceived to have endemic corruption, there is little doubt that systematic corruption occurred at all levels in Kyrgyzstan," the TI official suggested.
The recent anti-corruption moves by Bishkek needed to be part of a serious long-term and comprehensive package of anti-corruption reforms, both Elers and Ismailova agreed.
Such high-profile investigations could have symbolic value to show that the new authorities were determined to fight corruption, but were certainly not sufficient to root out corruption in the country, Elers explained.
Ismailova emphasised the need for constitutional reform, saying that systemic corruption could be curbed or decreased only through systemic approach. "Without these reforms it is very naive to say that corruption will be defeated and justice will come to our society," she noted.
Constitutional reform to be considered in Kyrgyzstan
BISHKEK. April 25 (Interfax) - The Kyrgyz parliament on Monday instituted a Constitutional Conference to carry out constitutional reform.
Parliament passed a resolution on Monday saying that the Constitutional Conference has been instituted "to work out a format for constitutional reform, to rule out an authoritarian system of government, uproot corruption and other negative occurrences in echelons of power, and create an effective democratic and law-based state."
Parliamentary speaker Omurbek Tekebayev has been appointed chairman of the Constitutional Conference.
The Constitutional Conference will have 100 members, among them 50 representatives of the public, 30 parliamentary deputies and ten representatives each from the judiciary and executive branches.
Yet, as the presidential elections are approaching, the actions of the government become less and less confident. Interfax news agency reported that air communication may be cut off within the next ten days. The possible air blockade of Kyrgyzstan is connected with the Manas International and Aalam Service companies which refuel planes at the Manas International Airport in Bishkek. The USA and the Russian Embassies have lately received the warning from these companies which claimed they could cut refueling jets of Aeroflot and those of the American military base, situated near the airport, within the next ten days. Besides, the companies informed the management of the airport that they may suspend their work due to the ongoing checks of their activities. If the two companies which have a monopolistic right to refuel jets at the Manas airport stop working, not a single jet will take off.
Acting Deputy prime minister Daniyar Usenov reacted immediately calling the companies' statements "a sheer provocation and sabotage" and added that the control stake of Manas International belongs to Aydar Akaev, the ex-president's son, and that of Aalam Service - to Askar Akaev's son-in-law Adil Tongoybaev. "The monopoly of the ex-president's family is still preserved in this market," acting deputy prime minister said. "As far as I know, these two companies have now 8,000 tons of fuel at their disposal. At the meeting between Kazakh president and the Kyrgyz leadership the issues of the deliveries of the Kazakh air fuel were decided upon positively. Kazakhstan has allocated a monthly quota of 20,000 tons to Kyrgyzstan. There are no problems in supplying the country with air kerosene," Mr. Usenov underscored. As deputy premier assures he has already appealed to Manas International and Aalam Service twice asking them not to cut off fuel supplies to the Manas Airport. "Manas International brought $30 million of net profit in2004 alone. At the same time, according to the accounts their return amounts to some thousands of dollars," Daniyar Usenov says.
According to the acting deputy prime minister the government is going to announce a tender for the work at the Manas Airport. "Let 20 companies-refuellers operate in Kyrgyzstan, instead of two monopolists." This intention does not guarantee, however, that the airport will be working within the next days.
Self-acquisition still continues on the outskirts of Bishkek. Abylda Suranchiev, acting deputy Interior Minister, declared yesterday that the police was virtually in the state of siege. The rallies in Bishkek and the suburbs are almost unceasing. According to him, the participants of the manifestations do not respond to the policemen's requests tearing off the epaulets from their shoulders. "But police officers do not use batons or guns against the participants of disorders," the deputy minister noted.
A Parliament deputy Melis Eshimkanov supposes that all rallies and pickets have been carefully organized aiming at the aggravation of the situation ahead of the presidential elections scheduled on June 10.
by Bek Orozaliev, Dina Karat, Bishkek; Mikhail Zygar
Russian Article as of Apr. 28, 2005